Tonawanda News

November 28, 2012

Busing problems keep district's attention

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Discussion of the district’s busing issues continued at the City of Tonawanda school board meeting Tuesday night.

Last month, the board approved a motion to add a bus monitor to a Riverview Elementary bus after rampant misbehavior issues came to the board’s attention. The monitor is a teaching assistant who receives an hourly wage for the extra work.

“When I was looking into adding that monitor, I found out that the monitors are not state certified,” Director of Business and Finance Stephen Perry said. “Doing so would push the teaching assistant’s work into overtime.”

The total cost for the training, which includes two five-hour sessions, is over $1,000 for the four monitors at Riverview and Mullen.

“Someone should have known they weren’t trained,” board member Lynn Casal said. “They shouldn’t be on the bus now if they aren’t certified.”

The district’s lawyer, Chris Trapp, said there is a liability issue whether the monitors are removed or not.

“If the priority is the kids’ safety, keep the monitors on and get them certified as soon as possible,” Trapp said.

Discussion of removing the monitors was dropped and Casal made a motion to appropriate funds for the training and complete it as soon as possible. The motion was adopted unanimously.

The City of Tonawanda School Board tabled a motion for the second time Tuesday night to hire a realtor for the sale of Central School, located at 80 Clinton St.

“We need more information,” Board President Jackie Smilinich said.

The board heard presentations from MJ Peterson and Hunt realty firms on Nov. 13.

Former Superintendent Whitney Vantine also invited Ed Woods, of Realty USA, to a meeting in October. 

Realty USA represented the district in the sale of Highland School last year. The school was originally listed for $440,000, but sold at $192,000 to S. Spoth, LLC in an auction.

Now, the building still sits vacant.

A new for sale sign sits on the property’s lawn and board members aren’t pleased by the continuing vacancy. Although People Inc. is still working on obtaining state grants for a housing project, the owners are keeping their options open and won’t agree to a formal agreement until funding is assured.

Board members opposed hiring the same realtor and called the Highland School sale a failure.

The board also moved to executive session to discuss the search for a new superintendent.

Board President Jackie Smilinich said they were set to discuss the advisory committee’s work. The committee, made up of community members and organization leaders in the city, conducted preliminary interviews with five candidates and then completed an anonymous online survey.

The board will whittle those candidates down to two or three finalists and then will conduct a second interview.

The salary range for the position was posted at no more than $160,000.

The current plan will have a new superintendent in place by February. Assistant Superintendent Mary Beth Scullion will continue to fill in until then.

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150.